A Rosary for Our Chibok Sisters, By Adaobi Nkeokelonye
The calendar on our wall is running, new moons have come and gone, but your bed is still empty. Such emptiness will not allow our vigil to rest, how can we? As I stand and watch from the porch and hear the rattling guns, like pendulum, my heart dangles between fear and comfort. Comfort that we have not grown weary of fighting to bring you home; you have not been forgotten. Fear that our towns and our lives will never remain the same again; the sounds of these guns have altered it forever. Guns are crying out loud and raging the storm outside.Yesterday, our world came crashing, the Emir was killed by Shekau and his men. The war gods are here, with little choice, we have welcomed them all from different land and clime.We are afraid to say it dear sisters but it is true that we are at war now. Here in the village, debris of human lives are scattered, life costs nothing now, nothing at all.
The aura here is still haunting,your name, your faces, it’s now floating in the air; everyone now sees you. There seems to be little crying here nowadays, the flames of tears are being doused. After long nights of vigil and crying, our tears have submerged beneath soar red eyes. Now we know we must freeze our pain too even though it still vibrates our hearts. We must tame our fears to keep growing the courage to find you.
Papa: his pride has been beaten down; they made him eat the dust in shame that he has not brought you home for many nights now. These days, his shoulder is getting slumped and he walks around with his face down. But there is hope wrapped with prayers, our dear Mama, to the heavens she prays away for a rainbow to follow this cloud.
As for me, you remain tangible in my dream. Last night, I dreamt, I was with you. We sat in circles as harem of women; wives to a hurricane holding vigil against his captivity. Sometimes we tried to laugh but it was in gloomy mirth. You are entangled in my every thought, each day, my heart goes hither and thither the tall trees and grasses with high canopies looking to find you. My sisters, answer me, does their roof give you shade? Are you still here or are you walking on the hot sands of the desert? The sun I see, does it shine in your world? Does the hot wind of the north manage to caress the skin on your face, or have you been forced to cover it all? Your hair; did you let your hair down? Tell me because I am still searching, I want to know you when I see you.
The President is really busy borrowing tactics from different nations to rescue you. Did you hear that he was coming to Sambisa? Yes, he was, but he sought you in France instead. From the national reservoir, he has dispatched thousands of soldiers to rescue you. By now, your rescue angels should have arrived. Dear sisters, have you sighted them yet? They are clad in khaki, their wings are their guns. Have they reached or do you hear their footstep? Perhaps like the President, most of them had left for the election; that too is very important.
Our nation celebrated children’s day yesterday, how can I forget you are still children? Happy children’s day to the girls in Sambisa! In Sambisa, how do they celebrate children? Did they let you dance freely to a non-violent rhythm? Were their voices sweeter when they called your names? Did they offer you some sweet food to lighten your hearts? What did they give? Your captors, do they really know you are still children?
That mad man Shekau, hmmmnn… I hope he knows that he cannot break a broken heart. These days, when I write his name, I write it with a pencil, because I know he will be erased. Shekau, I pray for you; may you and yours continue to eat from the bitter tree of ire and drink from the fountain of chaos; soon there will be no shade for you, as in the circle of life, there are some traps we cannot flee.
Dear Sisters, I want you back; but I don’t want you back alone. When that time comes, take back what is yours and then a little more, take with you the freedom of your captors. That day will come, when we shall sing the songs of one’s freedom and another’s captivity. We will dance and twist our waists like happy water snakes to our victorious and non-violent rhythms.
While you wait, do not breathe in all that is around you, sieve your thoughts and guard your hearts. Find solace in your own little arms. In this letter, I wrap you a rosary, a rosary to keep your faith going, to help you dream of your homecoming again and again until your dream is ripe. Look through the threads of the rosary; freedom is what you will find. You will see that sunny morning when you will arrive home again. It would matter not how you get to the gate, you may limp, walk or run to it, but you will reach home, remember that.
Dear Sisters, for now, may the nights be soft and cradle you and may the mornings refresh your hope, amen.
Adaobi Nkeokelonye is a Fellow of LEAD (Leadership for Environment and Development). She explores the linkages between fiction writing and international development issues on her site http://fictioningdevelopment.org. She can be reached on twitter @adankeokelonye